Force variability and musculoskeletal pain in blue-collar workers

Kristoffer Larsen Norheim, Jakob Hjort Bønløkke, Øyvind Omland, Afshin Samani, Pascal Madeleine

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Blue-collar workers with physically demanding occupations have a high prevalence of musculoskeletal disorders accompanied by pain. Previous research has suggested that reduced motor variability may increase the risk of developing musculoskeletal disorders. Here we present preliminary data from an ongoing cross-sectional examination of physical performance in elderly manual workers. This paper includes data from 20 male workers (age 52–70 years). Handgrip force variability was measured using a digital hand dynamometer during an endurance trial where the workers exerted 30% of their maximal isometric contraction force until task failure. Absolute variability (standard deviation), relative variability (coefficient of variation), and the complexity of the force signal (sample entropy) were computed. The workers were dichotomized into two groups: no to mild pain/discomfort (No pain) and moderate to severe pain/discomfort (Pain) to investigate the effects of musculoskeletal pain on force variability. This dichotomy was done based on the rating of pain/discomfort within the last seven days, where workers reporting ≥3 score in the upper extremities were allocated to the pain group (Pain, n = 9, No pain, n = 11). No significant between-group differences in force variability during the endurance trial were found. Both absolute and relative variability increased significantly over time. These preliminary data do not support a difference in force variability between blue-collar workers with or without musculoskeletal pain or discomfort in the upper extremities.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 20th Congress of the International Ergonomics Association, IEA 2018 : Volume IX: Aging, Gender and Work, Anthropometry, Ergonomics for Children and Educational Environments
EditorsSebastiano Bagnara, Riccardo Tartaglia, Sara Albolino, Yushi Fujita, Thomas Alexander
Number of pages9
Publication date1 Jan 2019
ISBN (Print)978-3-319-96064-7
ISBN (Electronic)978-3-319-96065-4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2019
Event20th Congress of the International Ergonomics Association, IEA 2018 - Florence, Italy
Duration: 26 Aug 201830 Aug 2018


Conference20th Congress of the International Ergonomics Association, IEA 2018
SeriesAdvances in Intelligent Systems and Computing


  • Discomfort
  • Endurance
  • Handgrip strength
  • Motor control

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